Each year, Wine Enthusiast honors the individuals and companies that made outstanding achievements over the past year in the wine and alcoholic beverage world. Below are the nominees in 16 categories for the 18th Annual Wine Star Awards. The winners will be announced in the Wine Enthusiast’s special “Best of Year” issue, and they will be honored at a black-tie gala in Miami on Monday, January 29, 2018.
Explore the 2017 Wine Star Award Nominees…
Person of the Year | Lifetime Achievement
American Wine Pioneer | Winemaker |Wine Executive
Sommelier/Wine Director | Retailer | Innovator
American Winery | European Winery | New World Winery
Wine Region | Importer | Spirit Brand
Person of the Year
In 2016, at just 30 years old, Berlemann was promoted to the position of Global Head Wine & Spirits and Director of the world’s leading trade fair for wine and spirits, ProWein. He joined Messe Düsseldorf, the company behind ProWein and other events, as a trainee in 2010, and was promoted to Senior Project Manager in 2012. In that role, he was in charge of growing the ProWein family in China (Shanghai) and South East Asia (Singapore). Since becoming director, he has assumed responsibility for ProWein’s global portfolio of wine and spirits events, working tirelessly to continue to expand and advance the show’s prominence and importance.
With a background in the male-dominated fields of marketing, television and tech, Deborah Brenner found her passion after a chance trip to Napa, becoming enamored with the untold stories of women toiling without recognition in the wine world. After that fateful journey, Brenner dedicated herself to raising the profile of women in wine and spirits, penning a collection of stories in 2006, Women of the Vine: Inside the World of Women Who Make, Taste, and Enjoy Wine. The book inspired a two-day symposium that has since grown into a full-service organization, Women of the Vine & Spirits, which aims to provide education, advocacy and mentorship to women throughout the beverage industry in the United States. In 2017, the organization expanded into Europe, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
President and CEO of Moët Hennessy North America, the leading luxury wines, spirits and Champagne company in the world, Jim Clerkin has more than 35 years of domestic and international experience in the wine and spirits industry. He has taken Moët Hennessy to new heights under his leadership, with impressive revenue growth reported year over year. Clerkin oversees all business across Canada, Mexico and the U.S., managing of some of the world’s most famous wine and spirits brands, including Champagnes Dom Pérignon, Krug, Moët & Chandon, Ruinart and Veuve Clicquot; and spirit brands Glenmorangie, Ardbeg, Belvedere and, of course, Hennessy. He is also part of the Global Executive Team of Moët Hennessy, as well as the Chairman of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
Known for his Oakville estate winery, which opened in 1996 and produces 90-plus-point Cabernet Sauvignon, Leslie Rudd’s influence in the food and beverage world reaches far past the bottle, in Napa and beyond. He grew the family business, Standard Beverage Corporation, into the largest alcohol wholesaler in Kansas, before turning his keen business sense to the food world. The onetime Dean & Deluca owner is responsible for the launch of PRESS Restaurant in St. Helena, the renovation of Oakville Grocery and the launch of Distillery No. 209, which makes premium, barrel-aged gins.
If you’ve ever enjoyed a glass of California Chardonnay, you probably have the Wente family to thank, due to their pioneering work with clones. But this is not a family that rests on its laurels, as evidenced by Wente Vineyards CEO Carolyn Wente. Not only has she expanded their wine portfolio, but Wente has also been the driving force behind elevating the visitor experience, which includes concerts, a golf course and a renowned restaurant. Now, Wente Vineyards attracts wine-loving guests from around the country and world.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Bob and Roger Trinchero, Trinchero Family Estates
American Wine Pioneer
Nicolaus ‘Nicky’ Hahn, Hahn Family Wines
Winemaker of the Year
As the vigneron of Cayuse in Walla Walla, Washington, Baron has had a profound effect on both the state’s and the nation’s wine industries. Cayuse’s 45 acres planted on stony regional soils give Baron’s Syrahs, Cabernet Sauvignons, Grenaches and more their elegant mineral stamp. He was a champion of establishing the red-hot The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA. Through his iconic Cayuse bottlings, as well as other releases under the Horsepower, No Girls and Hors Catégorie brand names, he has produced more than 50 wines that Wine Enthusiast has rated at 95 points or higher.
Approachable, knowledgeable and renowned for making wines at the top houses on two continents, Bascaules is a winemaker with vision. He spent 21 years working alongside the late Paul Pontallier at Château Margaux. Then he directed winemaking for Francis Ford Coppola’s reconstructed Inglenook and created a 50-year vineyard plan for the historic winery. Today, he works for both Coppola and Corinne Mentzelopoulos, owner of Château Margaux, and he splits his time and inspiration between Rutherford and Bordeaux.
Not only is Heekin—winemaker and proprietor of La Garagista winery—singlehandedly putting Vermont wines on the map, she’s also proving that hybrid-grape varieties can make serious wines. And she’s doing it all using biodynamic farming practices with minimal intervention, both previously thought impossible in the harsh Vermont climate. Heekin is also the author of An Unlikely Vineyard: The Education of a Farmer and Her Quest for Terroir.
Master Winemaker for St. Michael-Eppan has been cellar master since 1977 and has long been regarded as one of the most respected creators of white wine in Italy, whether for his Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris or Gewürztraminer. The Alto Adige pioneer is always eagerly experimenting in an effort to improve the quality and harmony of his wines. Terzer was one of the first South Tyrol winemakers to use barriques. His intuition created the winery’s most prized line, Sanct Valentin, wines known for its minerality, bouquet and elegant structure.
Patience and passion are the hallmarks of Weyrich’s character and his wines, which are among some of the best sparklers that California has to offer. This native of Alsace first worked as an intern at Roederer Estate, the famed Champagne House’s Mendocino property. After working in France with the multinational retail company Groupe Promodes, Weyrich returned to Roederer seven years later, with a deeper respect for the 200-year-old traditions of the estate and the freedom that making wine in California gives him.
Wine Executive of the Year
As chief marketing officer for The Wine Group—an independent, management-owned wine producer—Dubiel helps move palate-pleasing, premium wines off the shelves with impressive speed. He arrived in 2011, the same year the company launched the successful Flipflop wines, which by 2012 was selling 600,000 cases a year.
Managing Director of Campari America—the wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of Gruppo Campari—Fiorenzo is an industry veteran of more than 20 years. He has held several leadership positions within Campari, and since his arrival in San Francisco in 2015, Fiorenzo has helped make America Gruppo Campari’s largest market. The U.S. accounted for nearly 50 percent of group’s sales during the first quarter of 2017.
Harris cut his teeth at Constellation Brands, LVMH and Jackson Family Wines before he became president of Domaine Serene Winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and Burgundy’s Château de la Crée. His marketing background has dovetailed perfectly with the vision of winery owners Ken and Grace Evenstad, who, like Harris, are champions of wines made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
This is Leccia’s 25th year at Advini, S.A., the highly respected French firm that produces, markets and distributes its wines both domestically and internationally, where Leccia is now president and CEO. Since Leccia has taken the reins, Advini has opened agencies across the world to provide administrative, marketing and sales supports for its customers.
As senior vice president and general manager for E. & J. Gallo’s premium wine division, Nabedian was the mastermind behind Gallo’s most recent expansions and acquisitions, including brands like Napa’s Orin Swift Cellars and Monterey’s Talbott Vineyards; winery facilities up and down California and Washington; and vineyards like the massive and iconic Stagecoach Vineyard on Pritchard Hill in Napa Valley.
Sommelier/Wine Director of the Year
One of Wine Enthusiast’s 40 Under 40 honorees in 2016, Coker rose through the ranks in Santa Monica’s Rustic Canyon restaurant group to become wine director of its six restaurants. Never resting, she recently opened Esters Wine Shop & Bar, a wine store meets artisan eatery balancing discovery-driven bottles at palatable prices with premium wines catering to collectors.
Wine director and co-owner of Bar Covell in the hip Los Angeles suburb of Silver Lake, Kaner has built his own wine dynasty. His Augustine Wine Bar in Sherman Oaks offers its entire wine list by the glass, while at Dead or Alive in Palm Springs, there’s a changing selection of craft beers and wines. Kaner’s newest addition, Good Measure, is a wine-centric restaurant also in LA.
This member of the Court of Master Sommeliers just left as wine director of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the locus of locavore cuisine in Tarrytown, New York, to become beverage director at New York City’s buzzy Le Coucou. At Blue Hill, Puglia’s wine program grew from 600 to 2,000 wines from around the globe, as well as a small but well-crafted selection of artisanal beers and spirits. Before Blue Hill, Puglia had stints at Jean-Georges and the Mandarin Oriental, though he now looks forward to working with a wine list that’s driven by French wines, as well as being back in NYC.
This Culinary Institute of America-trained chef also holds the title of Master Sommelier and, as of June 2017, is the chief instructor with the renowned Guild of Sommeliers, a new position within the organization, where he drives innovative education through webinars, master classes and more. Tanghe also regularly serves as a judge in prestigious wine competitions worldwide.
Author of Napa Valley Then & Now, White started out as the general manager and wine buyer for University Wine Shop in Harvard Square before she became an intern in Burgundy. She then settled in New York City, where she sold wine for Domaine Select Wine Estates. Before moving to California, she became the head sommelier at the now-closed Veritas restaurant. Today, she and her husband, Scott Brenner, are sommeliers at Press restaurant in St. Helena, California.
Retailer of the Year
Chambers Street Wines
Opened in June 2001, Chambers Street Wines is a highly curated New York City shop with a focus on small producers and natural wines reflecting the commitment of the growers and inherent quality of the vintage. The eclectic and discovery-driven list is a source of pride for the shop, where employees are chosen for their passionate dedication to, and interest in, wines off the beaten path.
Kappy’s Fine Wine & Spirits
Founded in 1940 in Massachusetts, Kappy’s is a family business in its fourth generation that credits its success with “exemplary customer service, great products and everyday low prices.” With seven stores in Massachusetts, Kappy’s offers everything from Friday night pizza wines to cellar-worthy grand crus. But it does not thrive by wine alone—it puts a large emphasis on local products. Kappy’s was the first retailer to sell Massachusetts’ own Samuel Adams beer, and from nanobreweries to local wineries and distilleries, it doesn’t forget its retailing terroir.
Savvy customers of all generations flock to this Washington, D.C. retailer and importer of fine wines and spirits. Founded in 1957, MacArthur has gained a reputation as one of America’s best wine merchants. It imports wines directly from Europe and resells them to private clients throughout the U.S. and world.
Founded in 1915 and acquired by Albertson’s in 2015, this North American grocery chain leader boasts more than 1,300 stores. It has distinguished itself with a sophisticated and serious in-store wine and spirits program that includes consumer education, access to lauded brands and formal training for all its wine stewards.
Walgreens, one of the largest drugstore chains in the U.S., has made wine and spirits a blockbuster category, thanks to Tim Turner. Since he joined the company seven years ago, Turner has grown the category’s annual sales to $1 billion throughout the chain’s 8,200 stores. Under Turner’s guidance, Walgreen’s runs a lean, efficient unit with targeted brands. It stocks just 150 options for wine, 50 for spirits and 35 for beer.
Innovator of the Year
The tireless Hunter turned Shaw-Ross International Importers into a global force for world-class products with the launch of their premium wine division, The Lineage Collection. Among other triumphs, managing director Hunter expects blockbuster brand Whispering Angel Rosé to sell more than 300,000 cases this year, up 33 percent from last year.
The CEO and co-founder of King Estate comes by his entrepreneurial spirit naturally. In the early 1980s, while he worked at his father’s King Radio, he developed a microprocessor-based tuning system that the U.S. Armed Services, FBI and police departments still use today. With a penchant for business development, real estate and investing, he currently manages the daily winery activities. He was also instrumental in the negotiation of King Estate’s Next wine deal with Amazon.
One of the few female importers in the U.S., Lefcourt has managed to always stay at least one sip ahead. She founded and is now sole owner of Jenny & François Selections, one of the first importers of natural wines. Her unwavering promotion of those wines for the last 17 years, when natural wine was virtually unknown to consumers and of minimal interest to buyers, has helped put the category on the map.
The managing director of Warwick Estates in Stellenbosch, Ratcliffe represents the third generation of the family operation. He has played an important role in the producer’s approach to innovation, including social media, and is also considered the marketing guru behind Vilafonté, the first American-South African joint winemaking venture. In 2014, Ratcliffe organized and launched South Africa’s annual Cape Wine Auction event, with all proceeds benefitting more than a dozen charities.
Legacy is a hallmark of the Ricard family. Grandson of Paul Ricard, the creator of the eponymous brand of French pastis which later became a beverage empire, Paul-Charles joined Pernod Ricard in 2008 as an internal auditor before rising through the ranks and being appointed marketing manager for such exquisite Champagnes as G.H. Mumm and Perrier-Jouët. A dedicated patron of the arts, Ricard remains the permanent representative of Société Paul Ricard on the board of directors of Pernod Ricard SA, France’s leading spirit company. Celebrating its 85th anniversary in 2017, Ricard continues to help carry his family’s company and storied legacy into the future.
American Winery of the Year
The intrepid Bogle family has been farming since the mid-1800s, proving that great wine often comes from under-the-radar regions. That pioneering spirit endures, as the 1,500-acre family-run farm in Sacramento Valley’s Yolo County produces award-winning value wines from Chardonnay, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir and more.
Daou Vineyards and Winery
This estate in Paso Robles, California, creates terroir-driven and precision-based wines directed by its two owner/brothers, who are both successful engineers. The Daou’s exhaustive hunt for premium soil in Paso has resulted in wines that rival top Bordeaux bottlings, and is putting Paso on the global radar for collectible reds.
Duckhorn Wine Company
This influential St. Helena-based company, famed for its cleverly marketed wines like Duckhorn Vineyards, Decoy, Migration, Goldeneye, Paraduxx and Canvasback, has been pushing wine boundaries for over 30 years, crafting game-changing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Bordeaux varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. With seven acclaimed wineries, including the company’s recent acquisition of Central Coast-based Calera, it is the number one luxury wine supplier in the United States.
Launched in 1982 by California trailblazer Jess Jackson, what began as a vineyard in a former Lakeport orchard has grown into a legendary estate. Now in its 35th year, Kendall-Jackson owns more than 12,000 acres of vineyards in California’s greatest cool, coastal subregions, and sources from vineyards throughout Sonoma, Napa, Monterey and Mendocino. Distinguished for its commitment to environment-friendly practices, KJ was a founding force for Chardonnay in America, and its Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay has been the top-selling Chardonnay in the U.S. since 1992.
L’Ecole No. 41
Located in Walla Walla, Washington, this iconic, artisanal winery is now under the deft stewardship of an innovative second-generation. It regularly garners national and international accolades for its expressive wines that spotlight the richness and diversity of Walla Walla Valley soil.
European Winery of the Year
With winemaker and co-owner José Neiva Correia at the helm, Portugal’s DFJ Vinhos has increased production to six-million bottles annually since launching nearly a decade ago. This figure encompasses 40 brands and 110 different wines from nearly every region in the country. As winemaker, Correia played a pioneering role in the introduction of new varieties in Portugal and promoting healthy agricultural practices.
This family-owned French estate is one of the largest in Alsace. Its 346 acres of vineyards include 173 located in the region’s Grand Crus of Kitterlé, Saering, Kessler and Spiegel, and it bottles wines from fruit grown exclusively on its own estate. Some 65 percent of Domaine Schlumberger’s annual production of 700,000 bottles is destined for export. It produces wines that are affordable even at the highest levels, and its worldwide distribution serves as an ambassador for Alsace and its unique terroirs. Séverine Schlumberger is the estate’s seventh-generation manager.
Dr. Loosen and his descendants have been producing elegant, sophisticated Rieslings on their estate on the steep slopes of Germany’s Mosel Valley for more than 200 years. When Ernst Loosen took up the winemaker’s punch-down paddle, he learned that all great vintners share a dedication to producing intense, concentrated wines that proclaim their heritage. He’s also devoted to terroir over technology in his quest to make delicious wines.
Under the guardianship of Winemaker Danilo Drocco, the wines of Fontanafredda, the largest contiguous property in the Barolo denomination, are better than ever. Now owned by Oscar Farinetti of Eataly fame, the estate has an onsite restaurant, wine bar and a park for visitors, all while retaining a focus on the region’s classic grapes, including Barbera, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo.
Founded in 1835 as a Sherry bodega, this champion of quality Spanish wines remains family owned and focused on strategic growth. In addition to its signature Tio Pepe Fino Sherry, the company has acquired wineries from all over Spain and offers dry and sweet amontillados, olorosos and rare old soleras.
New World Winery of the Year
This boutique producer describes itself as a bit of Bordeaux’s Right Bank just outside of Stellenbosch, and it’s propelled itself into the ranks of iconic cult wines in short order. Owners Emil and Sonette den Dulk conducted extensive research before using as many as 13 different clones to plant Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. It also built a state-of-the-art, gravity-driven winery, hired the ebullient Albie Koch as a winemaker and released its first vintage to acclaim in 1999.
This family-run Auckland winery makes world-class Chardonnays whose luster don’t dim with age. Taut and elegant, they are some of the best that New Zealand has to offer. Kumeu River has regularly beaten reputable white Burgundies from Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault in blind tastings, and can be had at half (or less) their price.
Led by Winemaker Daniel Pi, Trapiche sources premium grapes from Argentina’s best winegrowing sites. That includes 2,470 acres of its own vineyards and a stable of more than 200 independent growers. Driven by quality, innovation and diversity, Pi and his team coax the finest and truest expressions from each varietal grape. Trapiche truly is “The World’s Favorite Malbec,” as the winery exports to more than 80 countries.
Founded 50 years ago, Vasse Felix was the first-ever vineyard and winery in Australia’s Margaret River region. The winery began to win awards with its first vineyard crop in 1972. Since their purchase 30 years ago, the Holmes à Court family has continued to put the winery and area on the map with region-specific Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay overseen by Chief Winemaker Virginia Willcock, as well as a world-class restaurant.
With holdings in almost all of Chile’s famed valleys (Maipo, Casablanca, Colchagua, Leyda and Huasco), Ventisquero and Chief Winemaker Felipe Tosso have gained recognition for making wine in the Atacama desert, in Northern Chile. Extreme salinity afflicts the soils in the middle of the desert, often imparting a distinct saline character in the resulting wines and providing a true sense of place with each sip.
Wine Region of the Year
Home of the Rías Baixas wine region and its delicious, well-priced Albariño wines, Galicia can seem a world apart from Spain. Racy, refreshing and aromatic, Albariño has put Galicia on the wine lover’s map. In this distinctive region, they speak Galician, eat enormous amounts of seafood and appreciate fine wine. And it’s also home to most of Spain’s exciting whites, including those from Monterrei, Ribeira Sacra, Ribeiro and Valdeorras.
Not far from where the warm waters of the Indian Ocean collide with the cold Southern Ocean, the Margaret River region boasts nearly 200 wineries. This vibrant region has built its reputation on Cabernet Sauvignon, though it is also conducive to other varieties and blends, including Chardonnay and Bordeaux-style white blends. Much is given to Margaret River in terms of soils and climate, and it manages to make the most of them, yielding ripe wines with elegance and finesse.
Be it boutique or corporate, name a grape variety and someone in Sonoma has planted it. The high quality of the county’s fruit and the role it has played in the evolution of California wines and tourism means it could very well be the wind beneath Napa’s wings. Between the wine bars, tasting rooms, restaurants, AVAs and wineries (more than 425), the sheer breadth of total offerings means beginners and collectors can find what they seek in Sonoma.
Southwest France continues to grow on the global radar, with wines lauded for their excellent value and finesse. Its distinct subregions, with their stunning, scenic backdrops, produce unique, terroir-driven and ageable wines, giving neighbors like Bordeaux a run for their money. Sommeliers started the buzz, and consumers in the U.S. and beyond have caught on.
UNESCO-designated sites dot this stately region, located in Central Italy, popular among savvy travelers seeking an under-the-radar wine-and-travel experience. Wines like Orvieto bianco—traditionally a crisp blend of Grechetto, Trebbiano and Verdello—and Sagrantino di Montefalco continue to catch the eye of food-focused global consumers.
Importer of the Year
Cape Classics Inc.
Long the standard in South African wine imports, Cape Classics represents brands like Demorgenzon, Glenelly, De Toren and Raats. It operates the “old-fashioned” way, with relationships and social responsibility at its core. It represents some 30 South African estates that embrace sustainable ecological and social practices, such as Indaba, a winery that set up a foundation to help educate children in South Africa’s Winelands. Over the past few years, Cape Classics has expanded its portfolio to include producers from Burgundy, the Rhône and the Loire Valleys.
Quintessential Wines LLC
This family owned and operated import, marketing and sales company headquartered in Napa is focused on representing similarly structured wineries that share its passion for winemaking and strategic marketing. The Kreps family (Steve Sr., Dennis and Steve Jr.) select producers from most of the world’s top wine regions that represent the most authentic expression of terroir.
Skurnik Wines & Spirits
It has been 30 years since Michael Skurnik founded his importing house, and 40 years since his days as a self-described cellar rat at New York City’s famed Windows on the World. Skurnik and family now import quality-first brands from France to Australia, New Zealand to Austria and every region in between. Skurnik doesn’t have a “house palate,” but the importer stresses wines with a firm “sense of place.”
With 50 percent of its focus on everything French except Bordeaux, this importer looks for wines of the best quality and value from its headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama. In France, this means Weinbach, Clos de Tart, Salon and Famille Perin. The other half of its portfolio includes renowned producers from key winemaking countries like Argentina, Italy, South Africa and Portugal.
Founder Michael Quinttus, a former Kobrand senior executive, launched this renowned importer of domestic and global family-owned, estate-based producers of “wines of place” in 2004. Since then, Vintus has grown into a major player in the U.S. wine market. The company’s commitment to terroir education ensures that its distributors in all 50 states are well informed about varieties and brands by site and region.
Spirit Brand of the Year
After more than 100 years of ups and downs, Bruichladdich bounced back to prominence under the leadership of head distillers Jim McEwan, and later, Adam Hannett. They made their mark by producing whiskies that range from The Octomore, the most heavily peated Scotch in the world, to unique bottlings that are peated but not smoked. The distillery has also been pioneering a new world of Scottish gin with The Botanist, which uses foraged botanicals local to the area around the distillery, driving a trend for distinctive gins that are truly origin based.
Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal
Pernod recognized the potential and quality in this Oaxaca-based producer of premium mezcals when it took a majority stake in the company in June of 2017. Handcrafted and 100-percent organic, Del Maguey works closely with native Zapotec producers to craft the spirit that’s finding favor in mixology meccas. Del Maguey brings the wine world’s terroir-driven techniques to its line, which drives exposure for the increasingly popular mezcal category.
This excellent and well-respected rum is made in Venezuela and has its own DOC. Diplomático is distributed to more than 50 countries and is one of Venezuela’s largest rum producers. It is owned by Destilerías Unidas S.A., a privately held company that’s leading the way in expanding this premium brand to new consumers.
Known for its trademark Maraschino cherry liqueur, bartenders have taken a liking to Luxardo’s Bitter Bianco, the company’s herbal infusion. The nearly 200-year-old company created the product in part because of the popularity of white Negronis, but also because bartenders sought an alternative to red bitters. Bartenders are finding they can use it in place of vermouth.
In the booming American whiskey market, Trey Zoeller, founder and distiller of Jefferson’s Bourbon, is differentiating his product by innovating. He sends Bourbon-filled barrels out to sea, hides others in duck blinds or utilizes Cabernet Sauvignon barrels from Napa for his Bourbon to age. Each method imparts a distinct flavor to the whiskey. The seafaring barrels taste of salted caramel, while the Napa wine barrels made the Bourbon reminiscent of a Manhattan without sugar.
Mixologist of the Year
One of the early heroes in California of seasonal drinking and sourcing local ingredients to make cocktails, Beattie is a mentor to many. He is now beverage director of estate events at Meadowood Napa Valley, where he comes up with custom drinks for special events that include the Napa Auction.
Herlihy, the longtime U.S. brand ambassador for Tullamore DEW, the triple-distilled, triple-blend Irish whiskey, started out as an egg farmer. He planned to take over his father’s 80,000 hen holding, but the lure of working for a whiskey company was “worth a shot.” He thought he would try it for a year. Six years later, he’s still at it. A self-described whiskey geek, Herlihy insists that he’s working with a liquid that he thoroughly enjoys.
How many hats can one person wear? Lynn House, the national brand educator for Heaven Hill Brands, has a few. She previously served on the Tales of the Cocktail seminar selection committee and has been inducted into the Dame Hall of Fame. In addition, she worked as the beverage director and mixologist for Michelin-two star restaurant, Graham Elliot, and developed the mixology program for James Beard Award nominee, Blackbird. House continues to develop cocktails.
The bartender’s bartender, Morgenthaler is bar manager of Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon. He was 2016’s winner of Tales of the Cocktail’s American Bartender of the Year. He combines the skill and craft of the world’s best mixologists with a down-to-earth outlook. He reminds people that drinking is supposed to be fun, not an exercise in the bartender’s ego.
This publican with a political bent is co-owner of Coup, a revolutionary New York City concept bar that donates profits to organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. But at his “day” job at game-changing bitters bar Amor y Amargo in New York City, the California Culinary Academy grad concocts elegant cocktails that tap into his food-driven background.
Brewery of the Year
Located in Cooperstown, New York, once the epicenter of U.S. hop production, Ommegang was built in 1997 on 136 acres of land that used to be a hop farm. It was the first farmstead brewery built in the U.S. in over 100 years, and it maintains a spiritual, homegrown approach to production today. In addition to its core lineup of Belgian-inspired beers, including the Witte Wheat Ale, Rare VOS Amber Ale, Hennepin Farmhouse Saison, Abbey Ale and Three Philosophers, the brewery also partnered with HBO to produce a range of beers for Game of Thrones, with themed names like Fire & Blood Red Ale and Winter is Here.
The Bruery/Bruery Terreux
It’s impossible to ignore Orange County, California-based The Bruery’s role in the rise of sour beers. It found such success within the category, founder Patrick Rue launched a separate brand in April 2015, called Bruery Terreux, to specialize exclusively in farmhouse-style wild and sour ales. With an annual production output of 15,000 barrels and availability in 30 states, the brand attracts serious beer aficionados.
Founders Brewing Co.
This forward-thinking Michigan brewery established its brand in America and beyond with creative craft brews like Doom, Kentucky Breakfast Stout (also known as KBS) and Rubaeus, a year-round raspberry ale. Celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2017, founders Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers have racked up medals worldwide and have maintained a hands-on style throughout their years of continuous growth.
New Belgium Brewing Company
With breweries in Fort Collins, Colorado, and Asheville, North Carolina, this employee-owned company has national distribution and a strong following for Belgian-style ales in six-packs decorated with the red vintage bicycle. The brewery’s classic Fat Tire ale was one of the first American craft-beer icons, while their expanded offerings, including sour ales that are inspired by Belgian Brewmaster Peter Bouckaert, a former brewer at Rodenbach, are creating new benchmarks for quality and craftsmanship with every release.
Wicked Weed Brewing
Based in Asheville, North Carolina, this fast-growing brand, which makes critically acclaimed sour, wild-ferment and barrel-aged beers, is highly regarded for pushing new styles. Focused on pushing boundaries while maintaining drinkability, it opened the Funkatorium, which features more than a dozen varieties of the styles on draught.